Although reactions toward it may be hostile, Hostel has something to say—and says it well

Hostel: Part Ii

on June 08, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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In this third outing at the helm of a feature horror flick, Eli Roth ( Cabin Fever , Hostel ) has elevated both his storytelling and filmmaking, graduating from the stock characters and incredible (as in not) plot developments to a slickly produced, almost believable gore fest disguising a powerful cultural critique.

Part II picks up where Hostel left off, with an uncredited Jay Hernandez fearing for his life and, rather than exposing the fate of his friend at the trembling hands of a wannabe surgeon, hiding from the worldwide network of wealthy thrill-seeking members of Elite Hunting. Although the name of the exclusive club evokes Richard Connell's “The Most Dangerous Game,” here the human quarry isn't pursued through an island jungle but pre-caught and -prepared for torture by the highest bidder—it's not so much stalking big game as shooting at a monkey in a small cage.

This prologue, rather unnecessarily, reviews the events of the previous film before introducing us to the next set of vics. The stakes are raised as the prey this time are three young women—rich, no-nonsense Beth (Lauren German), party girl Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and virginal art geek Lorna (Heather Matarazzo, who redeems being typecast by exhibiting the most terrifying vulnerability). On vacation in Rome, the ladies decide to take a weekend trip to Prague but change their plans and head to a hot springs spa in Slovakia on the recommendation of a new acquaintance.

At first glance, it seems gratuitous that only mysterious, sexy, vaguely Eastern European women are capable of luring unsuspecting victims to their fates—i.e., there's no male equivalent for these female marks. But, in addition to implying girl-on-girl action, Roth is no dummy: Girls traveling on their own are more likely to trust a stranger of their own sex.

Although he's sharply criticized for choreographing scenes of female torture—his recently expressed desire to next cast sweetheart Kate Hudson in the role has been widely repeated on the ‘Net—Roth's protagonists here aren't naive. They're keenly aware of dangerous situations, and, if they're overly polite to creepy guys who clearly do not have their best interests at heart, it's as much the fault of their feminine sensibilities to make nice as their instincts to not exacerbate an already iffy situation. These are smart, confident, strong young women—which makes their defenselessness all the more frightening.

The scenario on the second go-round is no longer a mystery: One by one the women are separated from each other and delivered to an abandoned factory where rich men (and a woman!) pay especially handsome sums to torture and kill American girls. These scenes, as constructed and photographed by DP Milan Chadima, who also worked on the first installment of the franchise, are designed less to simply gross out the audience than to rack up the tension. But in Part II Roth also provides more context, detailing how the exchanges are arranged and lending screen time to the perpetrators of the acts.

Even more so than the grotesque gore for which he is famous, it's in this latter aspect of the plot that Roth goes especially dark, demonstrating, actually quite persuasively, the potential for sadism in the most unlikely individuals and flipping our expectations on their heads. Although exaggerated, the material he is drawing from is First World consumerism where anything can be had for a price and the pursuit of power and the ultimate high knows no bounds. Meanwhile, American tourists bumble and blunder their way through “quaint” foreign countries while the natives see them for the condescending bullies that they are.

By the way, if you think Roth's concept is too far-fetched, note that some scenes of Hostel II were shot in a real-life erotic club called BigSister, a brothel/”voyeuristic paysite” where customers receive services for free in exchange for agreeing to have their activities streamed live on the web. Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi, Vera Jordanova, Milan Knazko and Stanislav Ianevski
Director/Screenwriter: Eli Roth
Producers: Mike Fleiss, Eli Roth and Chris Briggs
Genre: Horror
Rating: R for sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and some drug content
Running time: 94 min.
Release date: June 8, 2007
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